12 June 2012

Thirty by thirty update: How to sell a couch in under 24 hours

I recently had the same realization that strikes every person who moves: WE HAVE TOO MUCH STUFF. It’s the universal reaction whenever one must shove all their belongings in a single moving truck – which, by the way, U-Haul, is actually seventeen feet, not twenty, because who counts that teeny homespun-sounding “Grandma’s Attic” in the length of the truck? No one, that’s who. Especially no one shoving all their belongings in said truck.

Not that I’m bitter.

Moving on. One of the things that I didn’t have to fit in the truck, one of many many many things we cast off, was our living room set. Remember, the red couch and chair? The ones Mr. P hated and I promised to sell? They were such an item of contention that selling them became a goal to accomplish prior to turning thirty.

Well guess what. SOLD! In record time, no less.

See, I waited until the week of moving to even write an ad to sell them, because by then Mr. P would be home from school and I would feel safer allowing people to come to our home to see the sofa. That only left a narrow window of time, so I put a lot of effort into writing the ad in the hopes that they’d sell quickly.

Here’s the flyer I made for a friend to send to our local university:

And here’s the Craigslist ad I wrote:

There’s a lot of marketing-thought put in to those ads, you guys. Here’s what I made sure to include:

1) Keywords like “modern” and “stylish”, as well as the actual age of the set (I realized after the fact that I accidentally lied; I purchased these in 2005, not 2006... oops!)
2) All fabric colors, the type of fabric, the type of foam, and the finish on the feet
3) The origin – would have been a brand, except these were custom-made by a small custom furniture shop near my parent’s hometown
4) An emphasis that the sofa and chair were in good condition, with the phrases “non-smoking” and “no pets”, but also....
5) The phrase “general light wear” – it covers any fading, fabric bunching, pilling, etc. and it also keeps it from sounding too good to be true!
6) Similarly, why we’re selling; so the buyer doesn’t wonder “if it’s so great, why sell?”
7) THE DIMENSIONS. Serious buyers need them, so serious sellers should provide them.
8) The terms of sale: cash only, buyer must move, date the deal expires, location, how to contact

That seems like a ton of information, but as a savvy buyer, I’d want to know every last bit of that information! But just as importantly, providing all that information up front says something about me, as a seller, and by extension, me as an owner of the sofa. If I’m meticulous about an ad, then I’m meticulous about caring for the sofa and chair.

As for pricing, I admit that I struggled a bit. Should I price together or separately? What price gets me what I want while “pricing to sell”? Ultimately I only gave a price for the set, because I didn’t want to have to sell separately, and I asked for $300, which seemed on par with (maybe a tad lower than) comparable sets on Craigslist. The problem was that I actually wanted $300, and setting that price left me little negotiation room. Still, I decided it was more important that I price to sell as we were moving in five days, so $300 it was.

I also included the best possible photos I could, taken in daylight and color-corrected to reflect their tone in real life. I especially liked the one with the trim because you could see how the fabric looked!

Although they were still apparently a little too good, as one potential buyer asked if those were photos of the actual items being sold. Uh, yes? I only realized later that she may have thought they came from a catalog. Oops!

And the final part of my amateur marketing plan: timing. I posted the ad on the Sunday evening before Memorial Day. You know, when people are starting to think about what they’re going to do on their day off the next day, wandering around the internet, doing a little dreaming, a little shopping... OH HEY LOOK A SOFA I WANT! At least, that’s how I thought it would work?

And it did! Once the ad went live on Craigslist, I had the usual flurry of “i am intrested i can come thur tell me your address” types of emails, which are annoying. But I also had several grammatically-correct, serious-buyer emails! Many asked if they could come later in the week, and I told them it had to be first-come first-serve.

Then I had one email on Memorial Day morning, from a woman who gave me her phone number, told me she lived five minutes away, and could come RIGHT THEN. Well okay! Sure enough, she called along the way for directions, brought a friend with her (a fellow wise Craigslister, apparently), checked it out as a candidate for the sunroom in her new home, and paid FULL PRICE in cash, right then and there. Then her husband and his friend came later that afternoon to strap it in their truck! The deal was done in less than a day. As they drove away, Mr. P and I looked at each other like, “Huh. That was.... way too easy.”

Still, I chalk it up to marketing! Yes, we had a nice set to sell, but we made it look at least its best, if not better, and set the price appropriately. It drew the attention of the right buyer at the right time and sold in a matter of hours – not unlike our house, eh? And thank goodness for that, because they would not have fit in the moving truck. Marketing goes both ways, apparently. Looking at you, U-Haul. Yes, still bitter.

So now: I can check #4 off my 30 by 30 list! And while our new giant living room is now rather empty with just a futon... I have a nice stack of cash to put toward new couch shopping squeeeeeeeeeee!